Occupied Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:27 pm on 29th April 2004.

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Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister (International Development), International Development 4:27 pm, 29th April 2004

I congratulate Mr. Kaufman on a thoughtful and considerate speech. It was obviously based on experience and a great deal of knowledge.

This Select Committee report is different from the other reports on the subject that have been produced in my time. Unlike most of them, this report makes it clear that the problems addressed are obviously man made. Unfortunately, I was unable to join the Committee on its recent visit. However, many right hon. and hon. Members have visited the middle east with all-party groups or other organisations; indeed, my hon. Friends the Members for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) and for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) have just returned. A significant number of Members have first-hand experience of the region—experience that brings real expertise and wisdom to our debates. We heard a good example of that earlier this afternoon.

One of the best aspects of being a member of the Select Committee is being able to meet different people, see different parts of the world and, sometimes, listen to quite moving evidence. For instance, the Committee heard evidence about the demolition of houses, but I shall not go into detail about it.

One of the disadvantages of membership of the Committee is that its inquiries can sometimes be overtaken by events, and in ways that some other Select Committees' cannot. However, despite all that has happened since its publication at the beginning of the year, this report remains as valid as when it was published, although the scale of the problem has increased because of the recent actions of the Israeli Government.

Those members of the Committee who have spoken to me since their visit to the occupied territories told me of the shock of the humanitarian situation there. What makes a bad situation worse is the fact that, as I said, those humanitarian needs are virtually all man made. That makes the situation all the more frustrating. We have enough trouble helping those countries ravaged by natural disasters or events that are outwith our control without adding to them. Of course, I understand the need for Israel to protect its people and to minimise the potential for horrific suicide bombings like those that we have seen. However, the Israeli Government fail to realise that their actions serve only to give greater cause to organisations such as Hamas, which seek to recruit Palestinians in their campaign of terror. Rather than preventing suicide bombings, the Government of Israel are fuelling the fire that leads to such acts of terrorism.